Life Lessons: Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur
Before she could, Nineveh had stopped her.
King Arthur wanted to punish his wife and his knight for their affair and planned to burn his wife at the stake. Lancelot saved Guinevere from her death. One of Arthur's knights, his son Mordred, wanted to become king and encouraged King Arthur to battle Lancelot. Mordred convinced everyone that King Arthur died in battle and Mordred overtook the throne. When King Arthur discovered his son's betrayal, he went home to reclaim his throne. While in battle with his son Mordred, King Arthur died and Mordred was also fatally wounded. After his death, King Arthur's body was sent on a boat down the Isle of Avalon, never to be seen again.
Although we know him to be wise and cunning, he is as flawed as any fully human character in the stories. For example, he blindly teaches Nynyve all that he knows, and she traps him a cave sealed with a magic stone. Although Merlin knew that he would die by being buried alive, he is powerless to stop it, and his own magic is useless in attempting to free himself from his grave. Merlin’s story serves to show how magic, as an ideal element that may have done great good in the Arthurian world, has failed. While Merlin is certainly the most popular magical character in the Arthurian tales, other characters in Le Morte D’Arthur also have mystic powers. Merlin, who was undeniably an ally of King Arthur, departs early in the story, leaving way for characters such as Morgan la Fay, the Lady of the Lake, and Nynyve to be the main magical personalities. According to Jack Fritscher, Morgan la Fay, the Lady of the Lake, and Nynyve are three highly supernatural characters. Each associate, for good or ill, with a particular character: Morgan with Arthur, the Lady with Lancelot, Nynyve with Merlin (Fritscher 3), who is the agent of Merlin’s demise. Myra Olstead of Folklore magazine says of these women: “Arthurian enchantresses generally react only to specific insults, and are seldom jealous of a mortal maiden’s beauty unless she interferes with their own designs.
Le Morte D’Arthur has continued to be so popular because, finally, it is a story of hope.
Holbrook, S. E. “Nymue, the Chief Lady of the Lake, in Malory’s Le Morte Darthur.” Speculum 53.4 (1978): 761-777.
Fritscher Ph.D, Jack. When Malory met Arthur 1 Jan 1967. Loyola University Library, Chicago IL. 1-3.